With guests visiting from out of town this weekend, decisions had to be made. Two mainly: where to take them and what to feed them.
You want it to be something sort of unique to the area. So for dinner Friday night, we hit up Greenbrier Barbecue, where they got to sample some Alabama White Barbecue Sauce as well as some of their still-the-best-I've-ever-had hush puppies.
As for something to do, well, that was a bit tougher. Especially after my offer to drive them by the gym where I once scored 26 points in a preseason rec league basketball game was shot down. But alas, we finally decided on the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Because like I always say, nothing says Alabama like barbecue and rockets.
The Space & Rocket Center is located adjacent to the Redstone Arsenal army base and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Outside, several rockets are on display, along with one of the space shuttles and various other phallic symbols, er, bastions of power and might. At night, they light up the Huntsville skyline. Heck, what am I saying, they are the Huntsville skyline.
(Ideally, there would be a picture here.)
Inside are various exhibits which tell the story of our history in space. Currently, there is a special exhibit commemorating the 100th birthday of Wernher Von Braun. I got pretty excited when part of the exhibit was simply an enlargement of his Wikipedia entry.
Now from what I understand, Von Braun was one of more than a hundred German scientists who were brought to America in the aftermath of World War II. He was first given a one-room apartment, which best I could tell, held little more than a desk, a bed, and may or may not have contained a nuclear warhead. Anyway, he went on to help develop the Saturn V Rocket which would be used to transport man to the moon. Allegedly.
Other items on display inside the Space & Rocket Center include one of the Apollo command modules, a mobile quarantine facility, a Gemini training simulator (again, pretend there are pictures), and a lunar rover -- which is cool, but would be so much more awesome if they'd let you ride around on it. Or even sit on it and pretend you're riding around (which FYI, they apparently frown upon). There's also astronaut food for sale. Freeze-dried ice cream sandwich. Bet that's tasty!
The Space & Rocket Center is also home to the U.S. Space Camp, where you can send your kids if you want to get rid of them for like two weeks, or you know, if they're interested in becoming an astronaut. Because apparently, a lot of kids are. I, personally, was not.
I remember going to the Space & Rocket Center when I was a kid. They had this little simulator of some sort that you could actually climb into. There were switches you could flip and they'd have some mock radio communications playing to make it sound like a real mission.
Well, I would never climb in.
Because I was always afraid that somehow someone had made a huge mistake, and as soon as I got in there the thing was gonna take off with me in it. And I'd be leaving the Earth. What do you think would happen then? I don't have any formal reentry training! I'd be stuck in outer space. Nooooo sir. You weren't gettin' me in that thing.
So, yeah, astronaut was never something I aspired to be. I was more of a fireman kid. Also, garbage man.
Unfortunately, I don't think they give tours of the fire department to people my age. I suppose I could always drive out to the city landfill. Ponder what might have been.
"Tell me, did you sail across the sun? Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded, and that heaven is overrated..."